life of Norman, one of her three companions. Property, thenrelic of a more materialistic and supposedly less humane era,nmakes concrete the ephemeral connections between Marcianand Norman.nIn most of Pym’s books (which are far more upbeat thannQuartet) social comment is less direct, but just as deeplynembedded. In nearly all the novels, early and late, the lownstatus of women is pervasive. Nearly all the women holdninferior, even menial jobs—in spite of excellent educationsnand apparent capability. Prudence Bates in ]ane and Prudencenis typical. An Oxford graduate, she is a “sort ofnpersonal assistant to Dr. Grampian,” she explains. “I looknafter the humdrum side of his work, seeing books throughnthe press and that kind of thing.”nParallel to the women’s low status is their mental apathynor resignation. Prudence’s friend Jane Cleveland, lookingnaround during her Oxford reunion, observes how little thengraduates have accomplished, in spite of their early promise.nShe thinks about her “own stillborn ‘research,'” the subjectnof which she can’t quite recall—“Donne, was it, and hisninfluence on some later, obscurer poet?”nJane goes on to express dissatisfaction with what she chosenas her life—being a clergyman’s wife. She had hoped to benone of those “gallant, cheerful clergyman’s wives, who rannlarge houses and families on far too little money. …” ButnGreat Topics, Great Issues!nCatch up on the CHRONICLESnyou’ve missed by orderingnfrom the following collectionnof recent back issues.nTitle Qty. Amt.n•. Breaking Silence June ’88—Tkkes up the questions of what can be said in ansupposedly free society, the tyranny of pubUc opinion and the media…n”Brealting Silence” features an address and an interview with noveUst GeorgenGarrett. Also included are essays on anti-white racism in the U.S. and on thendamage done by the ideas of progress and equaUty. $2.50n• Ethnic Conflict May ’88—Harold O.J. Brown tells why Swiss ethnicnpluralism worlis; Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn stresses the historical reasons fornSouth Africa’s state of affairs; and Samuel Francis looks at Martin LuthernKing, Jr. and the civil rights movement. $2.50nD Homage to T.S. Eliot April’88-Octavio Paz, Josef Pieper, James lUttleton,nThomas Molnar, Fred Chappell, and Thomas Fleming pay their respects to thengreat modern poet. $2.50n• Who’s in Cliaree? March ’88—Editor Thomas Fleming discusses the privatendiplomats’ anapubUc scoundrels’ fight over the corpse of the Americannempire; Samuel Francis asks, “If Presidents have a free hand in foreign policy,nwho needs a Constitution?”; and Jack Douglas wonders if it may be time to electnfederal judges. $2.50nn Back to Nature Feb. ’88-The Greening of America, Part II, by Allan C.nCarlson; Mutiny in Paradise or Sexual Freedom/Political Slavery by JohnnChodes; and Jigs Gardner examines repentant radicals—conservative” andndoingwell. $2.50nD Institutionalized Writing: Are Universities the Last Stop for New LeftistsnandBinnt-OutWriters? Jan.’88—Bulgakov—aWhiteSurvivoroftheRednTerror; plus handguns in Florida, the homeless in North Dakota, and Lloyd’snof London’s new Tinkertoy home. $2.50n* Postage and handUng mcluded in issue price. Total amount duenName AddressnCity State .Zip_n20 / CHRONICLESnChronicles • 934 North Main Street • Rockford, IL • 61103 CBI588nnnshe had failed at that. She only had one child, while “othernqualities which she did not possess and which seemednimpossible to acquire were apparently necessary,” shenmuses.nIn contrast to Pym’s women, who labor diligently atntedious jobs, the men they work for have generally achievednlimited success—but not through hard work or even merit.nCertainly, Aylwin Forbes, the supposedly brilliant editor of anliterary journal in No Fond Return of Love, shows littlencompetence. Jessica Foy, a librarian listening to him lecture,nobserves to herself that he has an “exceptionally ablenassistant editor” working under him (a woman). Aylwin, shenis sure, knows little about the problems of an editor, evennthough that is the subject of his lecture.nMen like Aylwin usually have found a toehold in a solid,ntraditional hierarchy. While such sinecures are not especiallynrewarding, they supply the trappings of accomplishment.nAylwin has found his place in the academic-literary world,njust as Archdeacon Henry Hoccleve finds it in the Churchnof England. In a society characterized by slow growth, thenold hierarchies are the only hierarchies, and those who find anplace there are the “old boys,” often regardless of merit.nOne of the ways to attain such a position is to attractncompetent and self-effacing young women to do the worknand cover the failings. The women recognize the injusticenof the situation, but accept it, even embrace it. “Research,nwith a good-looking man,” Jessica says to another woman.n”That’s an enviable lot.” Most of the women cater to thenmen’s weaknesses. They aren’t fooled—some mentally takennote of how childlike and silly the men often are—but theyngo along.nHow much of this lowly status and mood of resignationnrelates directly to Pym’s own experience? As an editornemployed by the International African Institute in London,nPym’s day-to-day life was formally similar to that of womennsuch as Prudence. But to Pym it was not “humdrum”; it wasna job she took seriously and one that provided material fornher novels. Writing to Philip Larkin in 1973, she remarksnthat the Institute (which, she implies, may have outlived itsnusefulness) “is a rich subject for fiction if one can look at itnwith a novelist’s cruelly dispassionate eye, as I fear Insometimes can.”nLike her heroines, however, Pym accepts the status quonwhen it comes to men. We see in her diaries how she keptnon loving men who rejected her, and she rarely criticizesnthem or condescends to them (except in the case of HenrynHarvey, her first love; even years later, her letters bristle withnbarely disguised anger). In her novels, we see what lilliputiansnArchdeacon Hoccleve or Aylwin Forbes are—and wensense the futility and absurdity of a society that elevatesnthem to honored posts.nA few years ago, Michele Slung, writing in the WashingtonnPost’s “Book World,” described the world of BarbaranPym’s novels as simultaneously “cosy” and “bleak.” It isncosy because it is simple, humdrum, and physically secure. Itnis bleak because to live this way means that Pym’s people,nespecially her heroines, have given up opportunities andnwithdrawn into narrow confines, both spiritual and physical.nTogether, the “British disease” and Pym’s own sense ofnresignation dispassionately combine to create poignant comedies.n